Is Being a Jerk Good For Your Career?

Nice Guys May Truly Finish Last—Here Comes The Science!
Steve Jobs may have been brilliant, but he was also notorious for yelling and screaming to get things done.
Steve Jobs may have been brilliant, but he was also notorious for yelling and screaming to get things done.

It might be fashionable (and a little pessimistic) to say “nice guys finish last,”

Consider the fictional life of Gordon Gecko—or the very real Steve Jobs, known as a notorious screamer. It may seem that bad behavior pays off.

However, is being a jerk—or other things commonly thought of as undesirable—really beneficial to your career? According to, it might be the case.

A list of six things that sound unsuitable for your career—but in reality, just might be helpful:

  • Being a jerk.

In a study at the University of Western Ontario and Notre Dame, people who rated themselves as being “more disagreeable” than coworkers made nearly $10,000 more per year. The same survey asked students to hire someone from a list of fake applicants.

People that are thought of as “more agreeable” were actually less likely to get the job, even though they had equal qualifications.

  • Being a sexist.

Sexism is one of those traits held over from the “good” old days (a time that probably never existed in the first place). Unequal treatment of women may soon be (finally) be eliminated,  but the effects are not quite yet gone.

In the years from 1979 to 2005, the Bureau of Labor Statistics interviewed 13,000 people about gender roles. Men with “traditional” attitudes about women in the workforce earned an average of $12,000 more a year.

Researchers concluded that if a man believes women should stay at home with the kids, he’s under pressure to make more money—as a desire to be the sole breadwinner.

  • Growing a mustache.

Many companies persuade against growing facial hair. Research by the American Mustache Institute (a real organization) says men with mustaches take over four percent more earnings than clean-shaven men, as well as eight percent more than men with beards.

  • Gaining weight, but only if you are a man.

In a report in the Journal of Applied Psychology, men 25 pounds below average weight earn about $8,500 less annually. Furthermore, the more a man weighs, the more he brings in.

On the other hand, women earn more if they weigh less; women who are 25 pounds below average earn over $15,000 more annually than women of normal weight.

  • Being less attractive, but only if you are a woman.

One would think attractiveness to be useful for a career. Not so much, says one study. “Plain” looking women were more likely to get hired than gorgeous women.

The reason? Going through a human resources department, often the staff member first interviewing a candidate is a younger, single woman. With that in mind, sexuality is not as much a function, perhaps putting attractive women at a disadvantage.

  • Going out drinking.

Yes, but there’s a limit. In a study by the Journal of Labor Research, social drinkers earn seven percent more than nondrinkers do; people who like to go to bars on a regular basis gross 10 to 14 percent more income.


Published by @philammann

Put. That coffee. Down. Writer/editor/whatever it takes. @margaretj13 is my (much) better half. Website: Email: Twitter: @PhilAmmann

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